Firm drops bid to force drilling on holdouts

Natural gas drilling

NEW BEDFORD, Pa. (AP) – Hilcorp has dropped its bid to force holdout property owners in Pennsylania to accept drilling under their land, saying Friday the energy company wants to move beyond a protracted fight and begin producing oil and gas.

The Houston-based company had sought to use a 1961 Pennsylvania law to drill under the property of a few holdout landowners in New Bedford, near the Ohio border north of Pittsburgh. The concept, known as “forced pooling,” means people who don’t sign leases get bundled in with those who do, to make drilling more efficient and compensate all the landowners.

Hilcorp said it will instead drill around landowners who refused to sign leases with the company.

The company said in a statement that while it believes it would have prevailed, “this protracted process has created uncertainty for the landowners that have leased to Hilcorp and are eager to exercise their right to develop their oil and gas.”

Property owners holding 99 percent of the acreage in the 3,267-acre tract have signed leases, the company said.

Forced pooling laws exist in some form in about 40 states.

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